To curb begging at some famous religious sites in the state, the Justice and Empowerment Department has proposed to notify 10 key locations under the Prevention of Begging Act. Notifying these areas under the Act will essentially prohibit begging in these noted religious destinations.
The proposal has been sent to the state government to accommodate it in the upcoming Budget session of the Gujarat Assembly, scheduled to begin from July 2.
An aim to help tourists at religious places
With the 10 places under consideration being popular destinations for religious tourism, and begging being particularly prevalent there, the proposal to notify them under the Prevention of Begging Act is seen as going a long way in helping tourists and keeping alive their interest in these sites. Along with Somnath and Dwarka, the other places also receive heavy tourist footfall – in fact, Gujarat's tourism sector is dominated majorly by religious destinations.
The 10 places, which have been proposed to be notified for the implementation of the Prevention of Begging Act, are Pavagadh in Panchmahals district, Palitana in Bhavnagar, Junagadh, Becharaji in Mehsana, Shamlaji in Aravalli, Sidhpur in Patan, Ambaji in Banaskantha, Prabhas Patan (where world-famous Somnath temple is situated) in Gir-Somnath, Dwarka in Jamnagar and Dakor in Kheda.
Highly placed sources in the Social Justice and Empowerment Department said that as per the provisions, the Prevention of Begging Act applies to the areas notified by the state government. “At present, five major cities of Gujarat — Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot — are notified under the Act, prohibiting begging there.”
“Gujarat is a state that has shown a model of development to the rest of the country. And here, all these (10) places are popular destinations for religious tourism. Due to some age-old beliefs, the menace of begging is quite prevalent there. So, a proposal has been put forward before the state government to notify all these places under the Prevention of Begging Act,” added a source.
Sources further said that the department has also proposed to start seven new beggars’ admission centres or beggars’ homes at a cost of around Rs 3.4 crore to cater to the 10 places. As per the legal provisions, after rounding up the “beggars”, they are sent to such homes or centres.
At present, Gujarat has six beggars’ admission centres or beggars’ home, one each in Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot and Gandhinagar and two in Ahmedabad.
An official of the department said that the proposal has been sent and budget for building new beggars’ home is not much of a problem since the department has enough land to build seven new homes.
“It is to be seen if the state government accepts the proposal,” added the official.